Environmental Stewardship Institute

While many high schools offer green teams or eco clubs, young people rarely have the opportunity to explore their career options in the environmental field. FMR created the Environmental Stewardship Institute (ESI) in 2019 to address this gap between environmental education and environmental career pathways.

Through an immersive and interdisciplinary program of local river issues and professional development, ESI fosters a diverse next generation of environmental leaders.

ESI provides paid job experience and foundational learning to a group of students, our ESI fellows. Fellows are then better prepared for continued schooling in environmental subjects and have work experience to lean on for future job opportunities. 

Youth Empowerment Program 2019
Environmental Stewardship Institute fellows, 2019

Program design

As FMR's career pathways initiative, ESI is made up of two major programs. During the summer, we offer a two-month intensive session in which fellows learn from environmental experts, visit ecologically important sites and work on youth-led projects related to the river and the environment. During the school year, the ESI Youth Council focuses on leadership development and environmental advocacy.

Through ESI, our goal is to engage with the natural world, inspire advocacy, educate ourselves and others on environmental issues, discuss ways to support QT BIPOC youth and communities amid environmental racism, decolonize together, practice leadership and collaborate with the community to combat the problems facing the environment and our livelihoods. 

ESI summer intensive session

During the summer session, a variety of speakers lead discussions on the topics that participating fellows want to learn about. We also craft field trips and activities to labs, habitat restoration sites and more.

While program content focuses on environmental issues, we also practice job skills like crafting resumes and cover letters, networking and informational interviews.

Each year, fellows design and carry out their own capstone projects. These independent projects encourage them to deepen their understanding of and potentially have an impact on an environmental issue in their community while building research skills.

Fellows have made art to showcase issues like microplastics in clean water, installed receptacles for fishing line at a local park, mapped environmental justice issues in the Twin Cities and more. See projects from 2019, from 2020from 2021from 2022 and from 2023.

You can also follow ESI on Instagram.

ESI Youth Council

The ESI Youth Council is a school-year program that engages high school youth in leadership development and advocacy.

The council educates themselves and others on environmental issues, takes leadership roles and collaborates with the community to address environmental problems. Council members work alongside FMR staff and share input with both our staff and board on future youth program development, including the summer ESI intensive. (Learn more from this recap of the council's first full school year.) 


Applications for the summer program will open in spring, and council opportunities open in August. (See applications page.)  

FMR's summer Environmental Stewardship Institute is part of our larger Stewardship and Education program. Check out our other opportunities for youth and learners of all ages to get involved with FMR.

Questions? Contact education@fmr.org or 651.222.2193.

Thank you to our partners and funders

3M Foundation, American Beverage Foundation, Cargill Foundation, City of St. Paul, DNR No Child Left Inside, George Family Foundation, HB Fuller, Minnesota Academy of Science, Minnesota Beverage Association, Right Track, Trillium Family Foundation, Xcel Energy Foundation

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, June 25, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Nicollet Island, Minneapolis
New date: Saturday, August 10, 2024 at 5 p.m.
Hidden Falls Regional Park, St. Paul
Wednesday, August 14, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific & Natural Area, Inver Grove Heights